Tales of Berseria Review – Reasonably Emotional (PS4)
The Tales of franchise has a rich history in crafting memorable, epic stories and implementing intuitive action combat. Tales of Berseria is no exception, and it drives home a rather powerful message that will hit close to home for most people. It’s difficult to see this at first, because on the surface, it acts like a stereotypical JRPG. The main character, Velvet Crowe, is on the warpath for revenge against the man who killed her brother in front of her. Naturally, she meets up with him at about 10-15 hours in the game, and he’s too powerful for her to fight him just yet. Thus, she is required to journey quite a bit more, grind, learn a bit about herself, and change the world while she prepares for her final showdown.
Yet, underneath this paint-by-numbers for a JRPG story lies a very deep tale that will kick your emotions in the gut when you least expect it. The overly complicated, yet fun combat enriches the experience, providing an incredible JRPG to kick off 2017.
Before Velvet’s traumatic experience that set her on an angry path for revenge, she was a very happy and upbeat girl. She wanted nothing more than to protect her sickly brother, and keep her family safe from the daemonblight scouring the land, turning humans into murderous daemons. She was told even back then that she let her emotions rule her too deeply, which is why her swordsmanship would never prosper. Once her brother was sacrificed in the name of reason, as a way to combat the daemonblight, she refused to listen to this reason, and her emotions swiftly turned to anger. As a result, she was turned into a therion, a daemon that feeds upon other daemons and malakhim, spiritual beings that exorcists use to battle daemons. This most certainly did not improve her disposition.
No longer the caring girl she once was, Velvet sets out to avenge her brother, not caring who gets in her way. Her anger and hatred has blocked out all other reason, and she sees only one way to move forward.
Meanwhile, the man who murdered her brother is now known as the Shepherd of Midgand, the one who saved them all from the daemonblight with his rules of reason and order. Everything he does is for a reason, and to him, the end justifies the means.
This story is more than just Velvet’s self-discovery, her revenge, or how awfully the people live under this new world order. Tales of Berseria presents two glaring extremes of emotion and reason, inevitably showing how living solely by one or the other is dangerous to all involved. With everything going on in our own world of politics, this resounding theme hit rather close to home.
Tap Into Your Inner Arteist
If you’re already familiar with the Tales of series, then you’ll feel right at home with the arte combat system. This time, however, Bandai Namco has done some tweaking to make the action combat a bit more intuitive. As characters learn different artes, players can assign specific artes to buttons in a combo string. This way, you can mix up your combos, ensure you use as many artes as you have available, and find which combo variations work best to stagger various enemy types.
Chaining together combos is important for both dealing damage and allowing the character to continue to land attacks. Berseria has a Soul Gauge system, requiring souls to fill the gauge in order to successfully land attacks. If the enemy is stunned or has its back to your character, you can continue to attack without worry about the Soul Gauge. However, if you are depleted of souls, the enemy can more easily guard and counter against your attacks. Countering can stun you, which leaves you open for their own barrage of chained combos. Fortunately, the Soul Gauge replenishes rather quickly by briefly running around the battlefield. Each character also has a Break Soul attack, which is another way to gather souls from the enemies themselves.
All of that alone makes combat fun and keeps it interesting, especially with stronger enemies that know how to deal those chained combos. But why keep it there when it can become even more complicated?
People complained when Final Fantasy XIII still had tutorials for combat and exploration at the 30-hour mark. Berseria throws tutorials for new techniques up to about the same mark. Before you can get the hang of some techniques, others are introduced. The Help menu became my best friend rather quickly. My brain can only handle so many combat mechanics that sound so similar and use similar button combinations and yet totally are not similar.
Best Part Is the Costumes
Why go through a long and arduous journey if you’re not going to do it in style? Various costume pieces can be found in treasure chests, when you free a Katz from its box, and purchased with Tales Coins from playing carnival mini-games. I’m normally not one for playing dress-up with my partymembers, but that was before I put a ten gallon hat on Velvet. Somehow, with her ridiculous outfit that definitely does not keep her warm, a cowboy hat perfects it. Of course, I couldn’t stop there. With each costume piece I found, I forced my party to try it on. Since changing and upgrading the armor doesn’t alter the characters’ appearance, then they’re going to wear cowboy hats, rose corsages, and broody eyeglasses.
The costume collection is entertaining, but it’s far from the only side activity offered. The characters can cook meals from ingredients and recipes they find, and these meals can boost various stats before going into battle. There’s nothing quite like making everyone suddenly stop their dungeon crawl, sit, and eat a delicious meal before going after the boss.
There’s also the option to send one of the pirate scout ships out on exploring expeditions. When they return, the scout ship gains more experience to traverse through more dangerous areas and drops off any loot found. They’ll bring back priceless treasures, new recipes, and ingredients that can only be found on these expeditions. They take five seconds of your time to order them, and it’s ridiculous not to send them out every chance you get. Sure it’s a bit of padding for the game, but they’re harmless and rather fun.
One of the great things about the Tales of series is that you can jump in any of the games at any time and not be lost with either the story or combat. Tales of Berseria is a great launch point for newcomers, and of course a fabulous return point for veterans. JRPG fans who have never tried a Tales of game but always wanted to, this is a perfect place to start. Be sure to have the tissues close by.
Tales of Berseria review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.